Arizona Golf Vacations

Southern Dunes Golf Club: Best in the West!

By • Oct 20th, 2009

Southern Dunes Golf Course Flyover

southern-dunes-2Fred Couples has always done things his way. Whether it’s his one-of-a-kind golf swing, or his unmistakable saunter down the fairways of the PGA Tour, he has always separated himself from the norm. When he began consulting with golf course designers, you could only assume he would not follow the mold. “Boom Boom” coupled with Scottsdale golf-based design group Schmidt-Curley Design, Inc. to create a splendid Scottish-style links layout just 15 miles south of Chandler, in Maricopa that cannot be compared to anything else in the Phoenix area.

Southern Dunes Golf Club embodies the opportunity and challenge that face course designers in the Valley. Southern Dunes blends the desert surrounding with a true links feel. With whipping winds and firm, fast greens expect your handicap to be tough to match on this layout that features a beautiful blend of modern and traditional features.

Originally opened as an uber-private male-only club, Southern Dunes has opened its doors not just to women, but also the public. Golfweek Magazine ranked Southern Dunes #7 Best Courses You Can Play in Arizona.

The course can stretch over 7500 yards from the “Tips Tees” but take my advice and leave those tees to the plus-handicappers and professionals. There are six sets of tees ranging from the “Tips” at 7500 yards to the “Red” tees at 5102 yards. This should offer a wide range of distances that will give every golfer of any skill level a fair challenge.

There’s no shortage of moved dirt at Southern Dunes, but I must note that it doesn’t feel like an overly-modern aberration from the natural landscape. Every hole blends naturally with the surrounding scenery. The luxurious but relatively low-profile club house adds to the ambiance of the course, instead of taking over the horizon like some of the other private clubhouses in the Arizona golf valley.

To the first tee…

The course begins modestly enough with two of the shortest par fours on the course, the shortest par five and the shortest par three. Both the first and second holes dogleg right and stretch just 420 and 370 yards respectively, while the third bends slightly left.

The second fairway is guarded by a pair of bunkers on the left and a massive bunker to the right. The fescue-infested bunker on the right also acts as a greenside hazard to guard the slopey green. Most players will play a fairway wood or long iron off the tee to set up a short iron or wedge into the green.

The third requires a good drive between two fairway bunkers and while the long hitters might try to challenge the heavily bunkered green in two, I believe just as many birdies can be made with a short wedge shot from the fairway. Although it is a bit tough to judge distance due to the slightly elevated green and sunken fairway.

The fourth tips out at 165, and even though the green is narrow and heavily guarded, with a middle/short iron, a well struck shot should offer a decent chance at a birdie.

I believe you must get through the first four holes without a blemish to shoot a low score on this layout. You won’t get a stretch of four holes that will play any easier the rest of the day.

southern-dunesThe real teeth of the course start at the brutal 8th. Playing as the number 1 handicap hole probably says enough. The 484 yard par-4 gently doglegs to the left and your drive must navigate two hidden bunkers on the left. A long iron or fairway wood will likely be required to find this small putting surface. There is a mowed bailout area to the right of the green that is a popular place to play a third shot from.

Swing by The Grille at Southern Dunes as you make the turn and fuel up for the back nine, you’ll need a good dose to be sure.

The 10th might be your best opportunity to secure an easy par on the entire back nine. This beautiful 412 yard sweeping dogleg right plays quite a bit shorter than the yardage if you can keep your tee shot down the right half of the fairway. There is ample room for a run-up shot if you leave yourself too far back, but this green is relatively flat and should be attacked with a short iron. Go flag hunting here and then get ready to hang on for dear life.

The most unique hole on the course is without a doubt the 14th. This drivable (not my recommended play) par-4 looks more like a minefield than a golf hole. Huge gaping bunkers hide much of the mown grass that is an available target for your drive. The smart player will likely play a middle/long iron short of the first set of bunkers and leave a short wedge to the small, heavily contoured green. Make sure to stay under the hole here to ensure a makeable birdie effort. I found this green to be one of the toughest greens to read on the property.

Time to press your bets…

I’ll take you to the 18th tee now, perhaps the most scenic of the bunch. This long fairly strait-away par-4 can reach back to 463 yards, and is the only hole on this Arizona golf course that features a greenside water hazard. The 18th plays a bit shorter than the yardage because the fairway slopes away from the tee, which can lead to the water actually coming into play off the tee as well. The fairway pinches in with a bunker on the left and the lake on the right. Finding the fairway here is definitely a must to have a real chance of ending your round on a high note.

The green is large and guarded on the front and right side with water. A large bunker sits long and left of the green and another Scottish-style pot bunker will catch shots bailed out too far short and left.

Finishing with a par or better will surely make your dinner taste quite a bit better.

But if you didn’t get your fill on the golf course or you feel like there’s a few things you need to practice, Southern Dunes is currently building a world class practice facility that will feature a two-sided driving range, a six green short game area that will offer any shot you can think of to practice, and to top it all off they are building the Southern Academy, which will be a modern learning facility with state of the art video equipment, custom club fitting and repair.

Southern Dunes is the sixth golf course that Schmidt-Curley has teamed with Fred Couples to design. The others are The Plantation and The Palms in Palm Springs area, Southern Oaks Country Club in Houston, Texas, Talega Golf Club in San Clemente California, and The Crosby Estate in Rancho Santa Fe, California.

I believe there will be few golf facilities, public or private, that will rival Southern Dunes once all the improvements are complete. Now is the time to book your foursome or corporate outing right here at!